Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The White Company: Review

According to the blurb on GoodReads, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle considered The White Company his best work and characterized it as "worth a hundred Sherlock Holmes stories." Um. Okay. Who am I to argue with a knighted author? One of his readers, that's who. And I say give me Holmes any day.

So, The White Company is a tale of knights and squires and derring-do set against the backdrop of the Hundred Year's War. There are adventures and wars and jousting and ladies' honor to be defended and brave men to be welcomed home. But, seriously, it reads like a tale for school boys. For the most part, it's decently told and there are even some scenes that are particularly well-done, but overall the feel is not of a decent work of historical fiction, but that of Boys' Own Medieval Stories. The illustrations that accompany the story, while enjoyable, also give the story a juvenile feel. After reading much about how proud Doyle was of his historical fiction, I was expecting something with a little more depth. Perhaps that's my own fault for having false expectations, but that was what I thought.

I will admit to liking the character of Alleyne, the young man raised in a monastery who finds himself thrust out into the world in his twentieth year per his father's instructions. Before he fully renounces the world, he must live in it so he may have complete information on which to base his decision. I find Alleyne's adjustment to his worldly surroundings to be funny and true to nature (although perhaps he overcomes his confusion a little quickly). And I thoroughly enjoyed his interactions with his newfound friends Hordle John and Samkin Aylward. These three men and their allegience to Sir Nigel Loring saved the book for me. Sir Nigel has a bit of Don Quixote about him....but with far more successful results and a bit more reality to his derring-do.

As a tale of honor and loyalty, it is well-written and perhaps if I had come to it without preconceived notions I would have rated it higher. As it is, I give The White Company three out of five stars.

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